Monday, October 29, 2012

The Storm, The Writer and The Chicken

So while Hurricane Sandy is making its slow but potentially lethal way toward New York City - which makes me wonder; WHY is it always NYC? Godzilla, Independence Day, Day After Tomorrow, Planet of the Apes, and so many more - why is it always NYC that gets battered?
Anyway - while Sandy is making its way toward New York, my  dear friend Johanna Harness is lamenting the fact that I made chicken soup yesterday without documenting and posting the procedure.

To be honest, it never occurred to me. I make chicken soup so often in winter, it's much like making coffee: I don't think about it anymore.
But for Johanna, and anyone else who wants to know, this is how I make chicken soup, how I learned to make it from my grandmother. It is NOT a low-fat recipe. But it's the Number One of all comfort foods on a stormy, cold October day.

The things you need:

a chicken. And I don't mean one of your lean, I'll-be-done-in-ten-minutes chicken. I mean a hefty farm hen that has led a long life and acquired some meat and yes, fat.

some veggies:
- a couple of nice, big organic carrots
- celeriac. Yes, one of these ugly buggers, peeled and cut into chunks, and it won't harm at all if you wash and toss in the green, as well.

- one or two stems of leek, cut into... oh, let's say, thumb-length pieces (WASHED, of course!)
- two or three bay leaves
- salt and pepper
- a cube or two of Knorr chicken stock.
Did you know Knorr is a German company? Just like Maggi.

Now the secret to making a chicken soup that will stay clear and be really aromatic is that you need to put it on COLD.
So put all these ingredients in a large pot, add COLD water until the chicken is well covered, and bring to a boil without a lid. Once the soup begins to boil, cover tightly, and turn down the heat to medium (or less) until the soup simmers. NO more boiling, just gentle simmering. Can you SMELL it? And do you know what makes that heavenly smell so heavenly? It's that ugly bugger, the celeriac!

And then you forget about it for the next two or three hours.
See, this is one reason why I love to make chicken soup. It takes about ten minutes to put in the pot, and then you have all the time in the world to write!

Two hours later, the soup is done - but not ready.
You need something to go inside, right? It's a matter of taste whether you prefer noodles or rice - I've never been able to make up my mind. Basmati rice is really, really delicious in chicken soup, but so are noodles. Don't buy the cheapest you can get. Buy really nice egg noodles of your preferred shape.
But whatever you use, ride or noodles, cook them separately, not in the soup!

Remove the chicken from the pot and cut off the meat. If you bought the nice farm hen I was talking about, you'll have plenty of juicy, tender meat! Distribute it into the serving bowl, add your rice or noodles, and ladle the soup over it. Some people like the boiled vegetables (like my husband), some hate them (like me).
And.. SERVE!

Oh - you might want to know this. A bottle of Maggi condiment is never missing on a German table when there's chicken soup.

It's a total staple in German households! I've seen it in American grocery stores, so if yours has it, buy it. I promise. It will change your life forever. Add a dash to your soup before eating... hmmmm....
If you want to know, it's made from a herb that's called "Liebstöckel" in Germany. My dictionary tells me the English word is "lovage".

So here you go, Johanna: German, homemade chicken soup! Enjoy!


  1. I never would have thought to assemble it all in the bowl, but it makes perfect sense. I've also never heard of Maggi, but now I'll be looking for it. Thanks so much for this, Mariam!

  2. Yes, the thing is, if you boil the noodles IN the soup, or even add them to the whole pot before serving they'll just keep soaking the liquid up and you'll have a big bowl of mashy pasta with very little soup. The way I do it, your soup will stay nice and clear, and the noodles in shape. :)

  3. Yay! Thanks so much for this, Mariam! I'm definitely looking for Maggi now.

  4. Thanks for following my blog. Your chicken soup sounds yummy!